Friday July 31, 2020
Jared Kushner's Covid Task Farce
Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban has a must-read piece on whatever happened to Jared Kushner's crack Covid team and why we don't have a federal plan like every other industrialized country. “South Korea serves as the gold standard, with innovative ‘phone booth’ and drive-through testing sites,” Eban writes, “results that get returned within 24 hours, and supportive isolation for those who test positive, including food drop-offs.”
As for us? Some of the lowlights:
Countries that have successfully contained their outbreaks have empowered scientists to lead the response. But when Jared Kushner set out in March to solve the diagnostic-testing crisis, his efforts began not with public health experts but with bankers and billionaires. They saw themselves as the “A-team of people who get shit done,” as one participant proclaimed in a March Politico article.
Members of Kushner's task force include:
- Adam Boehler, Kushner's summer college roommate
- Nat Turner, CEO of Flatiron Health
- Jason Yeung, a Morgan Stanley banker
- Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen.
Onward and downward:
By early April, some who worked on the plan were given the strong impression that it would soon be shared with President Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it “would have put us in a fundamentally different place,” said the participant.
But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.
Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House's official coronavirus task force.
Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner's team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.
As of today, the U.S. has 4.5 million Covid cases with more than 150,000 dead. The last time fewer than 50,000 new cases were reported in a single day was July 6.
I look forward to more articles like this. Blow the lid off. Blow it the fuck off.